Social justice is about breaking down barriers to equity.
When we refreshed our values in 2020, there was clear consensus that social justice belonged on the list. Social justice stems from an understanding of each individual’s inherent human rights. It’s about creating systemic change that advances equity, closes the racial wealth gap, builds public policy that strengthens local communities, and provides equal opportunity.
Historically, Native Americans, people of color, immigrants and refugees, and people in rural areas have been denied access to resources, power over decisions that shape their futures, and respect for their cultures and ways of life.
As a funder, we recognize our position of privilege by using our grantmaking, program-related investments, and our public platform to build more equity for all. This drives our commitment to confront racism, sexism, colonization, and other overlapping oppressions that prevent people from thriving on their own terms.
Our staff is embracing social justice and the need for systems change.
The unique worldviews and experiences of our staff contribute to the power and authenticity of our values. It’s important to lift up staff voices and perspectives as we continue to lean into these refreshed values.
Social justice has been at the forefront of our internal conversations this past year. The pandemic has underscored the long-standing bias and injustice in our society, and our staff feels strongly about its role in righting those wrongs.
“When I think of our work at NWAF, it is about being in a position to make choices that effectively use our power in a productive way. In the world we are in now, more than ever, there are many social justice issues that need change and healing. We can truly make a difference toward this.”
Director of Organizational Effectiveness and Talent Development, Northwest Area Foundation
“For me, it’s been a difficult, ongoing process to comprehend the racial, social, and economic inequities that my inherent privilege continues to enable. I know that correcting the fundamental injustices of the dominant culture is vital for unity and universal prosperity. Funding social justice causes is an important step to realizing that change, and I’m optimistic that we’ll keep moving in the right direction.”
Program Coordinator, Northwest Area Foundation
“Economic, political, and social systems are creating an inequitable distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges. I am committed to changing these systems and advancing social justice through my work.”
Program Director, Northwest Area Foundation
Grantees use their passion and expertise to move social justice forward.
The Foundation’s concept of social justice is informed by the work of grantee partners that are on the front lines of advancing social justice and racial equity.
Black Visions Collective, a community-based, Black-led advocacy organization, has been addressing the persistent racial and economic disparities faced by Black Minnesotans. Seattle-based Social Justice Fund Northwest has led community-organizing efforts to address anti-Black racism and systemic oppression, coordinating resources to frontline groups.
The Montana Racial Equity Project has established itself as a leader in building equity and justice, promoting positive transformational change for communities of color in its region. And Tacoma Urban League has been a beacon of support and advocacy for African American businesses and communities.
Social justice stems from an understanding of each individual’s inherent human rights. It’s about creating systemic change that advances equity, closes the racial wealth gap, builds public policy that strengthens local communities, and provides equal opportunity.
We can better serve our priority communities when we listen to and learn from our grantees. They embody our value of social justice. And, we have an obligation to back organizations that advance equity and create systemic change—these are outcomes on which social justice stands.
As we work toward a better, more equitable future, we will continue to challenge ourselves as we think about social justice. A critical element of that is our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) journey, which continues to guide us on a path forward. We know that to keep advancing positive change, we need to reflect on how we can grow as a funder, both within our organizational culture and through our grantmaking strategy.